By Bruce Bawer:
For years now, as we all know, newspapers, magazines, and book publishers around the Western world have shrunk from publishing texts that touch on some of the more uncomfortable truths about Islam, preferring instead to give us all but idyllic accounts of Muslim history and belief and hagiographies of its prophet. Similarly, film, TV, and theater producers have gotten into the habit of scrubbing scripts free of anything that might be considered critical of Islam, even as they’ve given the green light to one project after another that has done a thoroughgoing job of whitewashing the Religion of Peace.
Museums, too, have played this same timid game, quietly removing centuries-old images of Muhammed from display and putting them into storage for fear of offending believers. Meanwhile, museumgoers have been treated to shows that are sheer Islamic propaganda.
Last year, Nick Cohen wrote in the Observer about one such exhibition that was then on display at the British Museum. It professed to present an informed view of the history of the Hajj – the pilgrimage to Mecca – going all the way back to Muhammed. But, as Cohen observed, the museum’s version of Muhammed’s life stuck to “the authorised version of ‘religious scholars,’” ignoring actual findings by real historians. It also excluded “evidence that might embarrass the Saudi royal family,” such as the fact that those royals have “wrecked Mecca,” destroying “the remnants of the 7th-century city.”
Why should the British Museum be so concerned about Saudi sensitivities? Simple: because a Saudi library was the museum’s partner in putting on the exhibition; because Saudi authorities had loaned key items to the show; and because financial sponsorship had been provided by (or through?) a bank that “issues sharia-compliant loans.”
The exhibition dropped other things down the memory hole, too. It included no mention of terrorist acts that have occurred during the Hajj. Nor did it acknowledge “the stampedes, bridge collapses and fires that have claimed the lives of thousands of pilgrims” year after year. When asked by Cohen about these major omissions, museum officials “waffled” that such details “did not fit into the exhibition’s remit.”
Cut to Oslo, Norway, a year later. Tomorrow, an exhibition entitled “Sultans of Science: Islamic Science Rediscovered” will open at the Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology (an independent institution, but one that receives considerable financial support from the Norwegian state). According to the museum, “Sultans of Science” is “the largest science exhibition that has ever been seen in Norway.” Although, over the last few years, it has been on display in venues “in New Jersey, South Africa, Toronto, Edmonton, San Jose, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia,” this marks its first appearance anywhere in Europe. “We are proud to bring this exhibition to Norway and delighted to unfold the knowledge of a great civilization which will be an engaging and educating experience for our visitors,” museum director Hans Weinberger said in a press release.
On its website, the museum invites adults and children alike to come see “Sultans of Science” and thus “get acquainted with an important scientific legacy from Islamic culture.” Singing the praises of “the golden age of Islamic science,” during which “science was encouraged and supported” by “the great Islamic caliphates,” the museum’s website informs us that “the development of European culture was…directly influenced by Islamic culture,” but that the traces of this influence were eventually, and tragically, “erased.” Simply put, the purpose of this show is to acquaint Western audiences with the riches of Islamic science and its immense impact on Western science and technology.
In short: a giant tsunami of propaganda is about to hit Norway.
Needless to say, there are two main points to be made whenever the words “Islam” and “science” come up. The first is that Islamic culture, like none other on earth, has proven to be a remarkably powerful impediment to the development of anything remotely deserving of the name of science. The second point, a corollary of the first, is that the relatively few worthy scientific discoveries and inventions for which Islamic cultures can take credit have occurred in spite of, and not because of, any identifiable “Islamic” influence.
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